Edmund Rice schools take position against homophobia

We thought it was time the church has a voice on how we might support young people from the perspective of some pretty core Christian teaching.

Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) has posted some resources on its website aimed at guiding staff on dealing with students and colleagues who might identify as same sex attracted or gender diverse.

EREA Executive Director Wayne Tinsey said the Live Life to the Full: Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities resources reflected the organisation’s “charter and touchstones” that everyone was “made in the likeness of God” and every young person should be given the opportunity to experience the “fullness of life”.

“We have a strong emphasis on inclusion in all our principles,” Wayne said.

The resources includes Live Life to the Full: EREA Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities Statement and Resources for Principals, School Leaders and Teachers, which includes FAQs, and a research report by RMIT academic Peter Norden on how Catholic schools can address the needs of students who are same sex attracted.

One of the questions included in the FAQs is: “What do I say to staff who fear losing their jobs or not being appointed to positions of responsibility in EREA schools because they are same sex attracted?”

Answer: “EREA schools are inclusive communities which embrace students, staff and family members irrespective of their (or perceived) sexual orientation. A person’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their appointment as a staff member or to a position of responsibility”.

Wayne said: “The work pertains solely to our efforts to assist teachers with bullying and provide pastoral support. A number of issues around teachers came up as well.

“We thought it was time the church had a voice on how we might support young people from the perspective of some pretty core Christian teaching.”

Wayne said there had been some opposition to the resources, including a letter writing campaign to bishops.

“We are not promoting a lifestyle or making any moral comments or pushing an agenda.

“We are purely making at attempt to improve the possibility of young people having a safe and appropriate space in which to learn, regardless of orientation. Other groups have the right to disagree with that.”

EREA administers 12 schools in NSW. Wayne said research shows about 16% of secondary students reported being same sex attracted or attracted to both sexes and 61% of same sex attracted people or gender questioning people reported verbal abuse because of homophobia.

The IEU recently hosted some NESA registered seminars called Interrupting and Challenging Homophobia, which were presented by the Safe Schools Coalition.